Case study

Magnopus Delivers Cutting-Edge VR/AR Experiences with Shotgun-Powered Pipeline

Studio: Magnopus
Headquarters: Los Angeles, CA
Head of Pipeline: Christian Deiss
Team size: 150
Specialties: VR/AR experiences
Notable Projects: “Lion King Virtual Production,” “CocoVR,” “Mission:ISS”
Favorite Shotgun Feature: The Publish app in the Shotgun Toolkit

70%
Reduced
manual steps
1000+
Hours saved
per project
Artist time freed
up to create

By Christian Deiss, Head of Pipeline at Magnopus

Magnopus is a content-focused technology company with a background in film and games. We’re bridging the divide that often exists between tech and content companies, so why we’re creating works hand in hand with how we’re building. We have the ability to take immersive projects from concept to consumer launch across all major platforms from design, through art and engineering. We’re particularly attracted to solving hard problems, regardless of the industry in which we find them. We’re drawn toward challenging projects that haven’t been done before, with a strong background in entertainment and education. Most of our projects include AR and VR, but always with a social multiplayer cross-platform approach to connect people in shared experiences.

The project I’m most proud of is “CocoVR,” which we created with Pixar. It illustrates the power of VR by emphasizing its social aspect. For anyone not familiar with the experience, up to four friends can join the experience and explore the world of Coco together. Another powerful project is “Mission:ISS,” which lets people go somewhere they’ve never been—the International Space Station. It was validated by several astronauts and was used by the Children’s Hospice in Los Angeles for children who were getting painful treatments in-home.

The challenge

Magnopus hired me to standardize, automate, and develop innovative methods for the asset production process. The key challenges artists were facing on a daily basis centered around file management and asset publishing; people didn’t know where to find files or what the latest version was, and the publishing process was tedious, long, and error-prone.

I was introduced to Shotgun 10 years ago when I was working for a VFX studio; we were looking for a solution to do our production asset management. Shotgun was new at the time and performed better than any other solution, especially with the ability to integrate it into an existing pipeline.

Based on my previous experience, it was clear early on at Magnopus—we could either integrate Shotgun or we would have to build all of its features from scratch. So I wrote a business case that used data from production to justify the expenses of Shotgun; this gave our executives the foundation from which to make their decision.

Once we decided to move forward, the earliest challenges we faced included customizing Shotgun to the existing manual workflow in order to limit the impact on production. Today the challenge is integrating updates to the official components into our customized setup.

The solution

It took three months to integrate Shotgun into our production process. Most of that time was spent customizing the Shotgun Toolkit with custom publish plugins and training the project teams. I’m leading a team of three pipeline developers who are extending existing apps, in addition to creating new ones; and Shotgun is the backbone of our entire asset production process.

We are tracking multiple projects simultaneously, with approximately 75 users actively using Shotgun. Our main focus is on asset production, including modeling, rigging, texturing, shading, and animation. We track all of our assets, their tasks, and the generated files in Shotgun. This includes not only internal asset production, but also all interactions with the client. We handle our deliveries and reviews through Shotgun. Especially for animation, we need to track multiple sequences for all the different animation clips.

One of the key benefits for us is the standardized and automated publishing process. We cut back our manual steps by 70% and the resulting data is consistent and reliable. Artists have more time to do value-added work. Shotgun also facilitates centralized communication between project teams for asset production on published versions and with clients on deliveries and review pages.

Communication between project teams and myself is key. I meet with every project on a weekly basis to discuss the current status and upcoming requirements. Some of our team members are directly embedded in the project teams to allow a close collaboration. We also have monthly user groups with all interested artists to present new solutions, discuss questions, and collect new requirements.

All task assignments and review are done in Shotgun. For internal review, we generate turntables and playblasts as part of the publish/handoff process. This material is also shared with vendors and clients, either directly in the Shotgun web interface or through the client review app. Shotgun is also key for our remote workers, as we collaborate with vendors on projects. They have a dedicated Shotgun app that allows them to create a delivery and directly ingest their files into our system. These files are processed to generate review material and to make everything available to our internal production team. Any feedback is directly added to the delivery or the versions generated by the contractor. On the other end, we use the client review app to present our latest work to the client and to receive direct feedback.

“Our artists can do more value-added work, which allows us to accomplish bigger projects at a higher quality.”

The features

We are currently working on a VR/AR experience which is based on making a "digital twin" of a large physical site. From the client, we’re receiving the full BIM data which needs to be converted, decimated, and integrated in the final experience. We are working with multiple vendors to accomplish this goal. One vendor converts the BIM data into poly-meshes while another optimizes sizes and textures so they can be loaded into the game engine. All this work is coordinated using Shotgun.

We have a proprietary Shotgun Toolkit app based on the Publish app which we use to transfer the files. Our contractors drop their files into the interface, select the corresponding asset, and hit submit. The app takes care of transferring the files and entering all required information into Shotgun. It will automatically create a delivery, the corresponding publish file entries, and a version for review containing a turntable from the delivered data. This reduces the time our artists must spend with file management. Instead, they can directly review the delivered material in the Shotgun web interface.

We’ve integrated DCC applications including Maya, 3ds Max, and Substance Painter into our Shotgun workflow, and we use Shotgun to load our assets into Unreal and Unity. The entire process is standardized and automated and includes custom publish plugins for every department. Besides the application-specific file formats, they are able to generate data in ABC, FBX, and USD file formats. This is completed by stand-alone applications, like a File Transfer app, and a USD editor. Our primary tools are Maya, Unreal, and Unity.

For our business case, we identified 157 manual steps an artist has to execute in order to bring a model through rigging to animation; 108 of these steps were related to file management, cleanup, and quality control. We were able to automate all of them and cut the manual steps by nearly 70%.

What I enjoy most about pipeline development is helping teams and projects to succeed through my support and developments. The work is better when the team works together—it fosters inspiration in each individual and moves the group toward greater innovation.

At Magnopus, we’re working at the cutting edge of making new kinds of experiences in AR and VR. And through using Shotgun, our artists can do more value-added work, which allows us to accomplish bigger projects at a higher quality. Coordinating with multiple vendors and subcontractors all at the same time would simply not be possible without Shotgun.

Shotgun … performed better than any other solution, especially with the ability to integrate it into an existing pipeline.

Pipeline Team at Magnopus

Head of Pipeline: Christian Deiss
Engineering Department Coordinator: Nicholas Thompson
Senior Pipeline Developer: Fabrice Ceugniet
Pipeline Developer: Siyu Ren 
Pipeline Developer: Rong Zhuang